The cult of the ‘Courtsider’ and how they give sports bettors the edge over the bookmaker

  • Many countries have banned courtsiding at sports events
  • Arrested man previously banned from event for 20 years

A man was arrested at the US Open last week on trespassing charges, reports the Associated Press, after it was found that he was flaunting a ‘courtsiding’ ban he received at the event last year.

The job of a 'courtsiders' is to give tennis bettors the edge against the sportsbook.
The job of a ‘courtsiders’ is to give tennis bettors the edge against the sportsbook.

The spectator was part of a 20-strong group who were accused of courtsiding at the event in 2016, and handed 20 year bans by law enforcement officials.

Courtsiding has been common in tennis for a number of years, but match and tournament hosts are working with police to crack down on the practice.

Transmitting information about a match is not in itself illegal – but interfering with a betting market is a serious offense.

What is courtsiding?

Where a sport has a popular live betting market with in-play bets available, spectators at the event can give bettors (or bookmakers) a distinct advantage.

As they watch the game live, they can use mobile devices to send real-time information out to the betting public before the bookmakers have chance to adjust their own prices – and gamblers can take advantage of this situation if they act quickly.

Occasionally, bookmakers may use their own courtsiders to obtain game information as soon as it happens, but regulatory controls usually prohibit this.

More often, courtsiders are employed by companies who receive and distribute the real-time data, beating the official media sources in the process.

Whether courtsiding is illegal or not depends on the jurisdiction, and on how the information is used.

Disclosing what has happened in a sports match to another party is not in itself illegal. However, the use of a communications device to interfere with a betting market, and the possibility of match-fixing allegations, put courtsiders on shaky ground legally.

Tennis arrest highlights growing trend for courtsiding

While courtsiding can happen in any sport, it is especially common among tennis spectators, and there have been a few high profile incidents in recent years. At the US Open in 2016, a large group of people were handed 20 year bans for their alleged involvement in a courtsiding ring, and last week one of those spectators was arrested at the 2017 US Open after breaching his order to stay away.

At the Australian Open in 2013, a player was arrested for courtsiding but the charges had to be dropped as there was no legislation in place to move the case forward.

Authorities in Victoria have previously argued that the Integrity In Sports Act prevents the practice, but have not secured any convictions relating to this legislation. In the UK, the Gambling Commission has confirmed that courtsiding is not an illegal practice – though sports venues are private property and therefore security can remove spectators at their own discretion.

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